Dravid, whether captain or not, is always expected to lead from the front. In past few years, with Sachin Tendulkar in and out due to injuries, and Sehwag not really firing consistently, Dravid's form has become critical to India's chances.
However, in the South African series, that is precisely what India did not get from their key batsman. While Dravid did manage to get into three figures for the series, his failure in virtually all the innings was responsible for India finishing second best in a two-horse race.
The Indian captain's average of around 20 was the second worst of his career. His 125 from six innings were only marginally better than the 1999-2000 series in Australia, when he averaged just about 15 from three tests.
Having thrashed Pakistan 3-0 in the previous series, Australian, under new coach Buchanan, were riding high on confidence. Against India, Tendulkar was undoubtedly the main target, but the Aussie had also made it clear in no uncertain terms that they will go after Dravid in the same way, as they had targeted another 'Wall', Manjrekar in 1991-92.
In the first test at Adelaide, replying to Australia's first innings total of 441, India started shakily losing both their openers for just nine on board. Then Dravid joined Laxman and the duo looked like steering India to safety. But once Laxman was dismissed after a solid 81-run partnership, Dravid's resistance too crumbled and an inside edge off Warne straightaway went to Langer standing in the close-in cordon.
Dravid made 35, which, to India's misfortune, turned out to be his highest score of the series. India lost the match by 285 runs with Dravid snared by Warne in both the innings.
Dravid score line for the series read 35, 6, 9, 14, 29 and 0. That was the only time in his career that the Wall had failed to make 100 in a series. His six innings fetched India 93 runs with an average of a measly 15.5, chiefly responsible for a 0-3 whitewash.
Another interesting fact. In each of the three tests, the bowler who picked Dravid in the first innings, also pocketed him in the second! Warne in the first test, Lee in the Second, and McGrath in the third.
Australia in India in 2004
Dravid had a hugely successful tour of Australia in 2003-04. Most memorable were his 233 in the first innings of the Adelaide test, which helped India cut down substantially on Australia's lead. Then his unbeaten 72 in the second took the visitors to their first victory on Australian soil in nearly two-and a half decades. He also hit two more nineties in the third and the fourth tests for a series aggregate of 619 and a massive average of 124.
It looked that the ghosts of 1999-2000 well and truly buried for Dravid and on more batsmen friendly Indian pitches, he will further demolish the Australian bowling.
In 2004 series in India, Dravid did start with a duck, castled by ever-indefatigable McGrath, but his 60 in the second innings of the lost cause at Banglore did give India some hope.
But that performance turned out to be just an illusion as Dravid failed to reach 50 in any of his next five innings. His addition in the next three matches - a mere 107. With India's main batsman averaging just 28, the Australians could not have been stopped from breaching the final frontier. They duly won the series 2-1.
Pakistan in India in 1998-99
Despite all the pressures associated with a historic tour, Dravid started with a bang at Chennai, scoring a carefully crafted 53 and helped India to a small first innings lead. However, second innings saw everybody failing except Sachin and Nayan Mongia as India stumbled to a 12-run defeat.
In three of the next four innings at Delhi and Kolkatta, Dravid got the start but failed to convert into big score. The three test dual ended 2-1 in Pakistan's favour, though officially the series was drawn at 1-1 as Kolkatta Test was part of the Asian Test Championship.
So it is not the first time that Dravid has failed so miserably in a series.
And the harsh fact is that India invariably go down when Dravid's form takes a beating. And it takes quite sometime to recover from the blow.